Defining Moment

Defining Moment Part 6: how to assess risk productively

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

There’s a great podcast out from the Guardian’s Science Weekly where psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer talks about risk. He makes the point over and over again that first, people spend a lot of time worrying about the wrong risks, and second, even the ones we should worry about are just about impossible to predict.

I’d like you to try and remember that as you go through this next step in the Defining Moment process. You see, now that we have an action plan of getting what we want, it’s time to figure out what are the risks of actually putting it into action.

What if I wrote a novel and nobody read?

We can still use my own D.M. to show this process. What could be the results of actually writing that book so that the person in the bookstore could pick it up? In no particular order,

  • I could go broke because writing kept me from a “real” job
  • I could lose touch with family and friends because I’m writing/talking about the writing all the time.
  • I might get carpal tunnel syndrome from too much typing.
  • I might forget to bathe, contract a skin-eating algae, and die in a puddle of green goo still trying to fix that one verdammt paragraph.

Ok, so that last was a little ridiculous. But go for the ridiculous! Write about all the possible risks you can think of.
Planning session

But don’t stop there. Write about the “good” outcomes as well, and extrapolate them. Maybe I write the book, and it becomes a bestseller, and I become the next Stephen King! But then he got his dream house, and ended up getting run over…but that gave him a better perspective for finishing The Gunslinger saga…but that is something he’ll likely never trump, so it perhaps means the end of his epics…

See what I mean? Try to think of all the possible results. Don’t worry about how to deal with them-as much as possible, anyway. I know that for everything you put down your brain will say one of two things: “Well, that’s not very likely!” or “Well, if that happens, then I’ll…”

We can’t help it. We make plans, and a good portion of what seems to be “people handling stress well” is more “people prepared to handle stress.” Creating this fun Risk List conditions your mind not only to anticipate outcomes but also automatically starts you out on how to solve them.

Prepare to be Surprised

Just don’t forget that second principle: life is inherently unpredictable, from the flip of a coin to the stock market. What that exercise in coming up with the risks of attempting your Defining Moment Action Plan is doing is conditioning your brain to handle new results…and that increases your resilience when that thing that you weren’t expecting happens. Next week we’ll take a look at the strategies that can help you when that happens.

The list is also going to come in handy after you take action, as a possibly entertaining look at how different reality can be from what we plan.

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